When someone dies, the estate goes through probate, which is a court-supervised process managing and closing the estate. Certain assets must go through probate, while others do not.
Although a judge oversees the process, a personal representative is in charge of most of the tasks involved with probate.
Purpose of probate
According to the Florida Bar, probate is the legal way to transfer asset ownership from the decedent to beneficiaries, following the instructions laid out in the will. Assets that go through probate are those owned solely by the decedent or those co-owned with no automatic succession of ownership upon death. Examples include:
- Real estate
- Artwork, jewelry and other personal items
- Investment or bank accounts
- Retirement account or life insurance policy that does not have a named beneficiary
During probate, there is also the payment of the estate’s debts and any taxes due.
Personal representative’s role
The will often names a personal representative. If not, the judge names someone, and this person is responsible for carrying out the will’s instructions. FindLaw discusses that this role is an important one. The personal representative must gather all the assets as well as locate named beneficiaries. Along with valuating the assets, the representative must keep them safe until distribution.
The personal representative must maintain upkeep of any property the decedent owned. He or she must locate any creditors and pay all valid claims, liquidating assets if necessary. The representative must also file tax returns and pay any taxes owed. After paying all necessary bills and debts, the representative can distribute the assets.
During the process, the personal representative may hire financial or tax professionals to assist with complicated situations. The representative also receives compensation for the role of managing the estate.